IN OTHER WORDS : Rights abuse

Under cover of the international furore over its nuclear activities and its support for Hezbollah, Iran is trying to silence its most prominent human-rights activist, and, by extension, all of the Iranians who speak for fundamental rights.

Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, has been threatened with arrest unless she closes the Centre for Protecting Human Rights in Tehran. The centre provides free legal representation to journalists, students and dissidents who face prosecution for peaceful assembly and criticising the government.

Ebadi and the centre’s lawyers have represented Iran’s leading dissident, Akbar Ganji. Recently, Ebadi has been defending women who say the police mistreated them. One of the centre’s co-founders, Abdolfattah Soltani, spent several months in prison last year. Other prominent Iranians are also languishing in prison, including Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, a former MP and Ramin Jahanbegloo, one of Iran’s best-known scholars.

The EU has expressed its alarm at the deterioration of human rights in Iran, as have Human Rights Watch and other NGOs. The US and Europe need to engage with Iran. But they also need to make clear that Tehran’s poor treatment of its citizens as well as its nuclear ambitions are unacceptable. — The New York Times